THE NOTWIST: The Devil, You + Me [Domino]

The Notwist’s last album, 2003’s Neon Golden, was irresistibly catchy and irretrievably downbeat. Both of those qualities are muted on The Devil, You + Me, the German combo’s long-in-the-making follow-up. Brothers Markus (guitar, voice) and Micha (bass) Acher, electronics wrangler Martin Grestchmann and new drummer Andreas Haberl have woven a 20-piece orchestra into an already rich sonic field in which electronic beats and dubby effects co-exist with crisp guitar pop. No single component dominates; instead, a parade of endlessly changing sound effects and synth tones keep some structurally simple songs interesting. Take “Gloomy,” whose Brazilian-flavored acous-tic-guitar chords burst out of a bit of static, then slowly gain presence behind Acher’s fuzz-coated voice and a Windex-clean synthesizer. Keyboards, loops and horns coalesce and recede while Acher’s earnest vocal reels out a paradoxically defiant lyric. Each song performs a similar trick, working elements in and out of the mix. The Devil, You + Me’s flaw lies in its presumption that you’ll be so taken with the sounds that you’ll wait around for the hooks to show up. Ultimately, they do, but if they were buses, you might’ve already hailed a cab by the time they arrive. []

—Bill Meyer